Community Featured Government Meetings

Elected Officials Discuss FY21 Budget; Restaurant Relief; Developments Impacting North End & Waterfront

The North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC) and North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) hosted a virtual joint meeting to hear updates from local elected officials on Tuesday evening. Follow along with the video or find points of interest summarized below.

Senator Joe Boncore provided updates regarding restaurant relief, transportation, police reform legislature, and the Commonwealth’s budget.
  • The Senate continues exploring legislature that would offer support to families, healthcare workers, small business owners, restaurants, homeowners, and renters.
    • $15M emergency funding was provided to local Boards of Health to allow for personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and tracing.
    • Unemployment insurance benefits were expanded to include employees typically left out of receiving benefits such as 1099 workers, etc. The waiting period to begin receiving benefits was shortened to only two days.
    • Legislature to ensure voters were able to vote by mail saw success in the primary elections where about 1.7M vote by mail ballots were cast.
    • Assistance was offered to restaurants by foregoing tax payments and expanding takeout to include cocktails-to-go.
    • A foreclosure and eviction moratorium was passed to ensure residents were not without a home during the public health emergency. The moratorium ends on October 15th.
  • The state currently does not have a budget for FY21.
    • Massachusetts is facing potentially a $5B deficit which could impact essential programming.
    • In the interim, $10M funding was acquired in order to support small businesses and provide wage protections.
  • Boston Public Schools returned to remote learning on September 21st.
  • Senator Boncore will host a virtual coffee hour on Tuesday, September 29th at 6pm to discuss COVID-19 and returning to school.
  • The Senate recently passed the transportation bond bill, allowing for a $3.4B investment in connecting the blue and red lines.
    • $5.5M funding was secured for projects in the North End including $3M to go toward restructuring and remodeling State Street around the Greenway.
    • 80-85% pre-COVID traffic has returned. The bill aims at addressing traffic congestion by investing in bottleneck reduction programs. It requires ride-share apps such as Lyft and Uber to provide more data to officials.
    • $50M was secured for the Complete Streets program, and $30M was secured for ferry and water services.
  • Senator Boncore personally worked on criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Commonwealth.
  • The Reform, Shift, and Rebuild Act was passed to increase police accountability and shift the department’s focus toward dismantling systemic racism. However, the legislature does not end qualified immunity. Instead, it clarifies and rebalances it by limiting qualified immunity in some cases.
  • Senator Boncore reminded residents of the importance of voting and recommended that those interested in voting by mail should return their applications as soon as possible.

City Councilor Ed Flynn (District 2) provided updates regarding pest control and illegal dumping in the City, stating that he recently co-sponsored a hearing to explore more aggressive approaches to combat the issues. Councilor Flynn is also sponsoring an upcoming hearing regarding infrastructure with water and sewer issues. He reminded residents that the Census deadline is approaching on September 30th.

Representative Aaron Michlewitz provided updates regarding the Commonwealth’s budget and legislature.
  • The FY21 budget has not been completed but temporary budgets have been providing needed funding in the meantime.
    • In the absence of federal funding, the three options being considered are cutting approximately 20% of the budget (which could impact shelters, addiction services, parks, education, etc.), withdrawing funds from the rainy day fund (which holds approximately $3.5B), or raising revenue (increasing gas taxes or applying taxes to ride-shares).
    • There will be an economic round table on October 7th. The link to the live broadcast will be provided soon.
  • House and Senate are currently in negotiations for a final police reform bill that would create a baseline of standards across the Commonwealth.
    • Other issues covered are creating a board for certifying and decertifying police officers, restricting the use of force, limiting firearm discharge on fleeing vehicles, limiting the use of tear gas and rubber pellets, and banning no knock warrants if children or elderly are believed to be on the property.
  • House and Senate are also negotiating a climate change bill which would require the Commonwealth to achieve net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 and established environmental justice districts.
  • The House added a restaurant relief component to a pending major economic development bill through legalizing sports betting. A tourism destination marketing district was created to allow hotels to charge customers up to 2% on the room occupancy tax in order to fund local marketing.

Residents raised concerns regarding the impact of recent project proposals in the neighborhood such as Tavistock’s restaurant and hotel proposal, the Harbor Garage redevelopment, and 14 N. Bennet Street rectory conversion. The elected officials said they have not seen plan details for Tavistock’s plan at Commercial Wharf. BPDA’s Richard McGuinness said the process for the Chiofaro’s Pinnacle at Harbor Garage is in the early stages of review. Michlewitz noted that no major development has occurred in the North End since Battery Wharf and all officials agreed that a comprehensive community process is needed for all projects.

There will be a virtual open house for the Harbor Garage redevelopment project on October 1st at 6pm.

At-Large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George provided updates regarding the reopening of Boston Public Schools (BPS). On October 1st, high need students will be returning to school under a hybrid program. Councilor Essaibi-George continues to host a weekly “Lunch and Learn” virtual meeting on Fridays to discuss issues regarding BPS.

BPS has opened twenty-one Super Sites around the City which offers five-day meal packs with five breakfasts and five lunches for remote learners. Super Sites are open on Tuesday and Wednesday, 10am – 6pm.

James Luisi, CEO for North End/ Waterfront (NEW) Health, stated that the testing center has moved from the Nazarro Center to behind the NEW Health center located at 332 Hanover Street. Residents should call to make appointments for testing regardless of symptoms.

Councilor Lydia Edwards (District 1) discussed the following information regarding neighborhood issues.
  • Outdoor dining was extended to December 1st. Councilor Edwards stated she has been working hard to ensure there is a balance between economic needs, and COVID-19 and parking concerns in regards to outdoor dining in the neighborhood.
  • Councilor Edwards will be hosting a transit town hall on September 29th at 6pm to discuss making the blue line more bike accessible. She will also be holding a Coffee Hour on October 3rd at 10am located at Caffè Paradiso.
  • Councilor Edwards acknowledged the loss of feast season this year, stating the feasts are “beautiful and unique” for the North End and she looks forward to feast season returning next year.
  • The historic zoning amendment introduced by Councilor Edwards will be completed this year which focuses on equity. The Home Rule petition to reform the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is currently pending.
  • Councilor Edwards also urged residents to throw away their masks which are not biodegradable.
Mayor Marty Walsh was unable to attend the meeting but John Romano provided a COVID-19 update.
  • As of September 14th, the positive test rate for the City of Boston increased to 2.8% from 1.5%. An increase in positive test rates has been seen across several neighborhoods except East Boston which was an area of concern in recent weeks. The North End continues to have one of the lowest positive test rates at 0.9%.